Review: Mario Sports Mix
Posted 04 May 2011 at 05:07 by Ashley Jones
|"These titles have always been about fun rather than a realistic simulation and Mario Sports Mix continues that tradition perfectly."|
The Mario sports franchise teed off with Mario Golf on the N64 in 1999 (or NES Open Tournament Golf depending on who you ask) but with the release of the Wii it seemed that the franchise was going to be permanently replaced by Miis. Nintendo seemed to assume that gamers would rather play as avatars of themselves rather than their mascot plumber and his pals and chances of another Mario sports title, other than Mario & Sonic at the (Winter) Olympic Games, seemed slim until last year's E3.
During their announcement-packed conference at E3 2010 Nintendo revealed Mario Sports Mix, a title that would feature four different sports and Nintendo's mascot would once again take centre stage. The title, developed by Square-Enix, also includes a number of characters from Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest unlockable through playing the game.
Mario Sports Mix contains four different sports; hockey, basketball, volleyball and dodgeball. This game marks the first time Mario and his friends have played dodgeball, although the other sports have been featured on other Mario games as either mini-games or complete games in their own rights.
Each of the different sports contains a training section and an overview of the sport itself and they can all be played either 2 vs 2 or 3 vs 3. Up to four players can join in the fun and you can also play online. You can play each sport in either an exhibition (single game) or tournament. As with other Mario sporting titles you must complete the tournament mode to unlock new characters and stages but if you just want to jump straight into the game then you can.
Each of the four sports handle reasonably well. The controls are all similar, relying on a mixture of the A and B buttons and flicking the Wii Remote for the most part. I personally enjoyed basketball and was less fond of hockey but it will all come down to individual preferences. As with all of the other Mario sports titles they are simplified versions of the sports intended for everyone to be able to pick up and play and in this regard the game works.
The franchise's usual characteristics are all present in Mario Sports Mix. The regular characters make a return, although they are joined by Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest characters later on, and they all have their own playing style and special moves that can be unleashed in an over-the-top style. Coins and power-ups can be picked up during the game and anyone familiar with Mario Kart will know what to expect from the power-ups: mushrooms, bananas and shells to name just a few. The coins are collected by your team and when someone scores the coins are added on as points.
Each of the sports can be played on a number of levels, each with their own unique feature. As with the other Mario sports titles the levels aren't basic playing fields but instead they are home to rotating courts, dangerous obstacles and random multipliers. While sports purists will probably dislike these 'gimmicks' it is unlikely anyone who considers themselves to be one will be playing Mario Sports Mix in the first place. These titles have always been about fun rather than a realistic simulation and Mario Sports Mix continues that tradition perfectly.
If you get bored of the main sports Mario Sports Mix features four different mini-games that take elements of the sports but places them in different contexts for your enjoyment. The mini-games are:
- Feed Petey - a basketball-based game in which you must grab fruits dangling above you and shoot them into Petey's mouth.
- Harmony Hustle - a volleyball game that sees you playing music by hitting balls of specific colours while avoiding obstacles.
- Bom-Omb Dodge - a dodgeball game of sorts as you must avoid the exploding bom-ombs and last for two minutes.
- Smash Skate - a hockey game that sees you trying to bash your opponents off the edge.
The different mini-games provide a welcome break although they vary in quality. While 'Harmony Hustle' is surprisingly addictive and an audio delight 'Smash Skate' can be frustrating as you must charge up to hit someone but once you have charged up moving becomes awkward. 'Bom-Omb Dodge' is a mixed bag as you can hide in corners at times, although even if you're the last player standing you still have to survive the whole two minutes to really win. 'Feed Petey' can get a bit dull at times as you can stand around waiting for fruit to dangle down and if you miss it there is more waiting to do.
All of the sports can be played online and Mario Sports Mix offers the same online system that has been used by Nintendo for years; you can play against friends or strangers within your country or the world. I didn't have trouble finding a game to play as long as I wasn't fussy about what I was playing but when I tried to host a game of my choosing I often had to sit for some time waiting for someone to join. When you are asked if you want to join someone their latency is indicated, in terms of how many stars out of four it is rated as, and you can choose to reject the game. In my experience anything other than three or four stars isn't worth playing. I once had a horrible game of dodgeball because it was simply so slow and laggy that the movements never matched up with my commands.
Outside of this the online mode in Mario Sports Mix gives you exactly what you'd expect from a Nintendo online title, even if it may not be exactly what you want. It helps to add a bit of life to the game although ultimately with a title like this it is better suited for local mulitplayer simply because part of the delight is working with, or against, friends whose reaction you can see.
Graphically the game is fine and what you'd expect, while it is no Super Mario Galaxy 2 Square Enix have by no means done a bad job. The focus in Mario Sports Mix is about the gameplay rather than the graphics, although some of the backgrounds do look particularly nice.
Ultimately Mario Sports Mix is all about the fun. It's great if you have a lot of friends coming around often but unless you particularly like the sports involved, and playful versions of the sports at that, it may not offer much for the single player. The tournaments and online modes provide a challenge but if you're playing a Mario sporting title you want to be able to humiliate your friends. However, Square Enix has produced an enjoyable and accessible sporting title that sits perfectly alongside Mario Tennis, Mario Golf and the numerous other sporting titles featuring Nintendo's mascot.
N-Europe Final Verdict
A fun mix of sports in an enjoyable package. Great for multiplayer sessions but could get boring by yourself.
Good to see Mario being featured again.
A good mix of sports.
Online mode adds life.
Some sports/minigames are a let down.
Themed levels can become frustrating.